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Are we the preferred path to global devastation?

Few of us would argue, I suspect, that short-term profit is more important than leaving for future generations a livable planet. We are in danger, however, of making this mistake.

A couple of years ago, 350.org founder Bill McKibben traveled extensively explaining the global warming math. He identified how much fossil fuel we can burn without compromising our planet. Since then we have continued in our ‘business as usual’ ways with accelerating greenhouse gas emissions, so the situation is worse than McKibben argued.

International agreements identified an upper limit beyond which we cannot allow global warming to proceed if we wish to protect the planet from severe devastation. This limit is 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial average. To keep to such a limit, we know how much greenhouse gas we can emit: about 500 gigatons of carbon dioxide and equivalent gases. We also know that the greenhouse gas in known fossil fuel reserves is many times that limit. To hold to that agreed temperature we must leave between 66 percent and 80 percent of known fossil fuels in the ground.

Furthermore, we will reach the limit within about 13 years at our current rate of emissions — fewer if we continue the ‘business as usual’ pattern. This means simply that we must be fully weaned from fossil fuels by 2027. Wherever fossil fuels are burned, the result is the same; they end up in our atmosphere causing global warming and climate chaos.

Fossil fuel company policy demands extracting and marketing known fossil fuels reserves in North America and selling them to the highest bidder. Since Asia hungers for our fuel, efforts are under way to extract the fuels and ship them to the coast for export.

Keystone XL is one route by which this tar sands oil might be exported — potentially capable of annually adding 149 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Meanwhile, plans are under way to transport coal, oil and natural gas through the Northwest to the Pacific coast for export to Asia. Plans include:

  • Seven coal terminals receiving freight trains laden with coal carrying 132 million tons annually and emitting 264 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
  • Two new oil pipelines carrying 1.1 million barrels of oil per day capable of emitting 199 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
  • Eleven oil-by-rail facilities capable of moving nearly 859,000 barrels of oil per day emitting annually 132 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
  • Six natural gas pipelines carrying 11.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day resulting in 227 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

Even ignoring the methane emissions that result from natural gas extraction and transport, collectively these export routes could have over five times the global warming impact of Keystone.

To reverse the trends we have already set in motion and protect the livability of this planet for future generations, we must call a halt to this insane pathway to collective suicide.

One of these projects is the Jordan Cove Pacific Connector liquefied natural gas pipeline planned to cross Southern Oregon from Malin to Jordan Cove to transport hydraulically fractured (fracked) natural gas to an export facility at Coos Bay.

These projects might generate a few jobs, but even more spectacular will be the profits gained by a few fossil fuel corporate executives and the local damage they cause. However, a huge price will also be paid by those living in the pathway of this project as their property is taken by eminent domain. Additionally, all inhabitants of the planet who will pay the price of elevated global temperatures and the climate chaos that induces.

Meanwhile, study after study has shown that far more jobs are created by the development of renewable energy alternatives to fossil fuels.

Please support Rogue Riverkeepr, Southern Oregon Climate Action Now and other organizations trying to halt the Jordan Cove Pipeline Project and the array of other projects crossing the Northwest. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will hold a Jordan Cove pipeline hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11 at Central Medford High School, 815 S. Oakdale Ave. Please join us in opposing this project.

Alan Journet of Jacksonville is co-facilitator of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (http://socan.info).